Archive for December 2019

Christmas Day Bicycle Ride – What a Great Day To Get Outside…

December 26, 2019

     Cloudy skies and rain have prevailed for the past few days, but what a nice day it was on Christmas Day to get outside.  While relaxing, shortly after lunch I received a message from Mike Ribadeneyra, wanting to take a bicycle ride.  I was actually thinking about a nap, but as a cyclist, when someone offers an opportunity to ride…the guilt can be a bit overwhelming should you decline, especially for no real reason. 

     So I got my cycling stuff on, and as always, it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you are riding back in your driveway.  

     When coming home, we were able to stop and visit with “Albert” the donkey who loves to see us from behind his pasture fence.   It’s always great to hear him coming to us with his bell jingling, to see who might be there.   

     Albert loves for me to bring him an apple, but Debbie has to quarter it, and he will chew each piece very thoroughly.   If a piece falls on the ground, he’ll not eat it until I pick it up and offer it to him again. 

     He’s a bit finicky for sure, but is a very kind, gentle guy and seems to love attention.  Roger 

Albert is glad to see Mike Ribadeneyra:   

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Supplemental photo:  Saturday, December 28th, after a ride, changing out of cycling stuff and taking Albert an apple.  He was very disappointed I didn’t have or offer him an apple, when we were riding home.  So….Debbie, and I took him one later.  

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NGC 1999 – Reflection Nebula With Hole: January 2020 – Observer’s Challenge Report

December 12, 2019

MONTHLY OBSERVER’S CHALLENGE

Compiled by:

Roger Ivester, North Carolina

&

Sue French, New York

January 2020

Report #132

NGC 1999 Reflection Nebula in Orion

Sharing Observations and Bringing Amateur Astronomers Together

Introduction

The purpose of the Observer’s Challenge is to encourage the pursuit of visual observing. It’s open to everyone who’s interested, and if you’re able to contribute notes, and/or drawings, we’ll be happy to include them in our monthly summary. Visual astronomy depends on what’s seen through the eyepiece. Not only does it satisfy an innate curiosity, but it allows the visual observer to discover the beauty and the wonderment of the night sky. Before photography, all observations depended on what astronomers saw in the eyepiece, and how they recorded their observations. This was done through notes and drawings, and that’s the tradition we’re stressing in the Observer’s Challenge. And for folks with an interest in astrophotography, your digital images and notes are just as welcome. The hope is that you’ll read through these reports and become inspired to take more time at the eyepiece, study each object, and look for those subtle details that you might never have noticed before.

NGC 1999 Reflection Nebula in Orion

NGC 1999 is a bright, 2′ reflection nebula embedded in the southeastern reaches of the more diffuse, 10′ reflection/emission region IC 427. Clasped near its heart, the variable star V380 Ori provides the nebula’s illumination, its visual magnitude varying from magnitude 9.5 to 11 during the past decade. A dark patch shaped somewhat like a chess pawn trends west-southwest from the star. It was long thought to be a type of dark nebula known as a Bok globule, but recent studies show that this inky spot is most likely a dark cavity within the reflection nebula.

Sir William Herschel discovered NGC 1999 on October 5, 1785.His journal entry from that date reads: “A star with a very strong burr all around.”

 

January:  NGC 1999 – Refection Nebula with hole – Orion; Mag. V=9.5;  Size 2′ 

RA:  05h  36m   Dec.  -06º  43′  

 

Reports to-date:

Mario Motta:  Observer from Massachusetts 

Processed NGC 1999 (Keyhole Nebula) which is the January Observer’s Challenge object.   I did not realize how much dust and gas surrounding area, when imaged. 

This is a total of 166 minutes of H alpha, Sulfur, and O3 filters.  Not much O3 in the final.  Mostly hydrogen with some sulfur.

I’ve sent a B&W composite, and also color.  All taken with my 32-inch f/6 telescope, with STL 1001E SBIG camera. 15×15 arc minute view for scale, the actual keyhole is small, but very bright, the surrounding dust/gas is faint

Processed in PixInsight.    Mario Motta 

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Vladislav Mlch:  Observer from Massachusetts

January 2020 Observer’s Challenge report:

Object: NGC 1999

Date: Dec 28, 2019

Location: White Mountains National forest, New Hampshire

Conditions: Bortle 2, average seeing

Telescope:  22-inch f/3.3 DOB with 21mm eyepiece  (~88x, FOV~65 arcminutes, and a 6mm (~300x, FOV~18 arcminutes)

Filter:  No filter used

Notes: Nebula looks like a “blue snowball” in the 21mm eyepiece and it looks like a “big snowball” in 6mm eyepiece. At 300x one can see dark nebula in the middle of the snowball, shaped like Texas. There is a bright core next to the dark nebula.

Pencil sketch below:

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Roger Ivester:  Observer from North Carolina 

Reflection nebula, NGC 1999 is easy to locate and see at all magnifications, with a 10-inch reflector.  The nebula has a fairly high surface brightness.   

At a magnification of 104x, the reflection nebula appears as a bright circular haze, with a much brighter concentrated center.  When increasing the magnification to 256x, the illumination star V380 which is variable (mag. 9.5 to 11.0) can be easily seen, appearing a little east of the center.  

The offset of this star brightens the eastern section of the nebulous halo, causing the appearance of greater concentration and being brighter.  

After spending two hours, I could not see the dark void or hole just to the west of the variable illumination star.  However, I believe with better seeing this “noted” feature would have been possible, using the 256x magnification, but on this night, stars were very soft and bloated.   Pencil sketch as following:

NGC 1999 Roger

 

Joseph  Rothchild:  Observer from Massachusetts  

I observed NGC 1999 on January 15, 2019 on Cape Cod.  I again used my 10-inch  reflector under dark but hazy skies. 

The object was easily found by star hopping from Iota Orionis.  There was an asterism appearing like a reverse 3 or a question mark that pointed to the nebula. 

When using a low magnification of 45x, it appeared like a fuzzy star.  At higher power of 153x, there was a compact nebulosity around a star, seen best with averted vision, while with direct vision it appeared almost stellar.  With averted vision I was able to see the hole with difficulty just adjacent to the central star.     

 

    

 

A Brief “Astrobiography” of Gus E. Johnson

December 7, 2019

      I became acquainted with Gus Johnson almost ten years ago, and as time passed, we became good friends.  Shortly afterwards, he became a regular contributor to the Observer’s Challenge report.  

     Gus has never used a computer, so it has always been necessary for me to call him via telephone, to receive his observation notes each month.   However, this has never been a problem for me, as I have always enjoyed our conversations over the years.  

     In 2018, Gus sent me his autobiography that he had typed himself.  Yes, Gus still uses a typewriter.  It was my plan to turn his “typewritten” story into a Word document, and then post on my blog site.  However, I could never seem to get started.  So in November 2019, I put out an email, asking if anyone would be interested in helping me tell the story of Gus Johnson “in his own words”.

       A few weeks passed, and I received an email from Nina Craven of Massachusetts.  Nina offered to convert the typewritten notes by Gus into a Word document. And she did a fabulous job!  Both of us decided that his story should indeed be in his own words.  Thank you Nina for your work!    

       My wife, Debbie is my in-house editor, and also anytime I need advice on the best word to use, she seems to always come through.  Debbie did a quick edit of the autobiography, but made only a few minor changes.  Again, trying to keep the story as close to the original as possible.

     Many of you may not know who Gus Johnson is, or his accomplishments and contribution to the world of astronomy.    Roger Ivester 

 

The following information is from wikipedia:  

SN 1979C was a supernova about 50 million light-years away in Messier 100, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Coma Berenices. The Type II supernovawas discovered April 19, 1979 by Gus Johnson, a school teacher and amateur astronomer.[2] This type of supernova is known as a core collapse and is the result of the internal collapse and violent explosion of a large star. A star must have at least 9 times the mass of the Sun in order to undergo this type of collapse.[3] The star that resulted in this supernova was estimated to be in the range of 20 solar masses.[1]

On November 15, 2010 NASA announced that evidence of a black hole had been detected as a remnant of the supernova explosion. Scientists led by Dr. Dan Patnaude from the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA evaluated data gathered between 1995 and 2007 from several space based observatories. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission, as well as the European Space Agency‘s XMM-Newton, and Germany’s ROSAT all participated in the examination.[4]

The researchers observed a steady source of X-rays and determined that it was likely that this was material being fed into the object either from the supernova or a binary companion. However, an alternative explanation would be that the X-ray emissions could be from the pulsar wind nebula from a rapidly spinning pulsar, similar to the one in the center of the Crab Nebula.[4] These two ideas account for several types of known X-ray sources. In the case of black holes the material that falls into the black hole emits the X-rays and not the black hole itself. Gas is heated by the fall into the strong gravitational field.

SN 1979C has also been studied in the radio frequency spectrum. A light curve study was performed between 1985 and 1990 using the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico.[5]

 

More information from Chandra:  

https://chandra.harvard.edu/chronicle/0410/sn1979c/

 

A BRIEF “ASTROBIOGRAPHY” OF GUS E. JOHNSON

     In late 1938 I was born, and lived in Vanergrift, Pennsylvania, which is short, about 40 miles north-east of Pittsburgh.  We lived on the bluff overlooking the Kiski River and the Pennsylvania Railroad;  trains soon became a big interest of mine that continues to the present, especially steam-powered trains.

     From I know not where I acquired an interest in classical music, which also is still a big interest after 68 years. I learned to play violin and organ, though not very well.

     One clear starry night I recall, when living on that bluff, but to no avail, as my parents knew next to nothing about stars (or music).  The news media reported a bright comet, but I didn’t see it. It scared me.  I wasn’t keeping notes then so that comet’s name is gone from me.

     In 8th grade, at the Lincoln School in Vandergrift, I chanced upon an article in the classroom encyclopedia, about Mars, with an artist’s version of what Mars looked like as seen from one of its moons.  I think that is what sparked my interest in astronomy.  I read many books on the subject, well, not really many since school libraries had few on astronomy.  Somehow I learned of “Sky and Telescope” magazine.  I still have my first issue , for January 1954, and nearly every issue since then.  Some 1200 issues take a lot of space, and other magazines I have saved in great numbers.  My house is badly a-clutter! 

     Around 1953 I got my first telescope, a hand-held 8 x 30 spyglass.  The optics were good, but hand-held, it was of little use astronomically.  About 1954 I was in high school, where I found that I knew more about astronomy than my general science teacher (9th grade).  She loaned me a larger telescope, of 15x to 40x, but hand-held.  Soon I bought a similar telescope and tried to mount it using a very flimsy music stand, so by the time vibrations died down the object under observation often had drifted out of the field, so I tried some other contrived mounts.  I got a few observations with it like of Venus and Mizar and the moon.  Saturn’s rings were visible, though tiny.

     My father passed away in 1951, and then my mother in 1961.  In 1954 she remarried and we then moved to Castle Shannon, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  I attended a high school in Mt. Lebanon, about 2 miles away, where there was a pretty fair library and more astronomy books.  The librarian acquainted me with the autobiography of John A. Brashear, which I have read numerous times, he being an excellent telescope builder and astronomer at Allegheny Observatory.  His book is a joy to read.  He, as a beginner who worked at a steel mill, had built himself a 5-in. refractor and a 12-in. f/10 reflector.  

     I was inspired to get a real astronomical telescope, and seeing an ad in “Sky and Telescope” I got a 3 ½ in. Skyscope, base priced at $30.  It had ¼ wave optics, and that was adequate to give fairly good views, at 35x and 60x.  A 2.4-in. f/15 Unitron refractor followed, then a Cave 6- in. f/7.8 Newtonian, which really did wonderfully on deep sky and high resolution planetary observing.  Suburban skies were light polluted but sometimes I could use high powers.  My stepfather had a cabin in the woods at Deep Creek Lake, in western Maryland, where skies were fairly dark.  Many trees obstructed the horizons, except to the north and northeast.

     My father’s name was Gus E. Johnson like myself.  My mother’s was Maryon.  My stepfather was Floyd Crouch; he passed away in 1957, as I wrote, my mother passed away in 1961, after which I moved from the Pittsburgh suburb to Deep Creek Lake.  I now have an 8-in. f/6 Orion reflector and a very handy 4 ¼-in. f/7 reflector from Three B Optics, from Mars, PA (They advertised “Mirrors from Mars”) and their optics were very good.  Alas, as with Cave, no longer in business.  Three B’s head optician was Bill Herdman.

     With so many surrounding trees I didn’t get very many observations.  One memorable observation was made, perhaps my only sighting of M51’s spiral arms was from that home.  I remember once carrying (no vehicle) my 55 lb. 6-in. at least a quarter mile so I could see into Scorpius.  I’d get set up on the road then a car would come with its bright lights and I’d have to move the telescope. I think I made that ordeal only once.  When I observe I like to have a writing desk beside the telescope, and along that road I couldn’t have that.

     In around 1973 I got married.  The house was too small so we moved around 24 miles away to Aurora, W.VA. to a sort of  “farmette”, a couple acres, but with good sky access.  My wife didn’t like me out observing, much discord, and a divorce came, a costly one; then I couldn’t afford a good house, so I got this rather dumpy one back near Deep Creek Lake.  It has some NW sky then a fairly low horizon NE through SW.  I can’t quite see Omega Centauri, but just up over the hill it can be seem dimly.  Gamma Velorum can be resolved from that site too, with a 40mm Unitron finder at 12x.  From my home site I can reach Theta Eridani, resolving with a 2.4-in. at 21x.  Those three are my most southern objects.

     More regular observing came with my joining the American Association of Variable Star Observers (the AAVSO).  Besides observing long period variables, like Mira, I observed some galaxies, looking for supernovae, though probably not too seriously at first.  On April 18, 1979 I invited the pastor of my church to join me observing, for he had an interest in astronomy.  I took him on a “tour” of the Coma-Virgo Galaxy Cluster with my 8-in. and Leland Copeland’s “Coma-Virgo Land” chart from the Feb. 1955 “Sky & Telescope”.  The pastor’s name is David Long, now a missionary in Botswana.  Anyway, when we looked at M100 (NGC 4321) I noticed a little star, about mag.11 near the galaxy’s edge.  I kept it in mind and later checked a Palomar photo and the star was not there so I phoned the AAVSO and they put out an alert.  By the next day, April 19,1979 it was confirmed, by L. Rosino of Asiago Astrophysical Observatory and R. Kirschner, of the University of Michigan, reported that McGraw-Hill Observatory got its spectrum.

     It was reported to be the third time ever that a supernova was discovered by telescope direct vision, rather than photographically.  The SN was no longer visible by 1980, but I read that it was by infra-red and/or radio telescopes.  I thank GOD for my noticing the SN.  Between mag. 10 and 11 are around a half million stars, and I couldn’t have memorized more than a “handful”. 

     At the autumn meeting of the AAVSO I was awarded a handsome plaque.  Some notable observers were also at that meeting: Canadian astronomers Rolf Meier, discoverer of numerous comets, and Warren Morrison, who discovered Nova Cygni with only a 2.4-in. refractor (probably a Unitron). Decades passed and I watched more galaxies just in case. 

     One interesting observation was made on Feb. 19, 1983.  I was looking for Omicron 2 Eridani (40 ERI) and where I expected to find what normally looks like a wide unequal pair, I saw a nearly equal double aligned apx. E-W, puzzling me. I didn’t become aware of what I had until too late.  The dim star is a pair of white and red dwarf stars, the latter occasionally erupting; it was flaring!  And I didn’t make any timings!

     In autumn of 2010 the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory scientists, using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory satellite discovered x-rays coming from the site of my supernova, which suggested that the SN had left a black hole behind. 

     All of a sudden I was getting calls from newspapers and the HSAO scientists, and a television interview was made.  The “Washington Post” newspaper wrote “…Gus Johnson talks about his black hole discovery 31 years ago.”  NOT quite correct; I found the supernova but NOT the black hole.  Dated Nov. 29, 2010.

     I have done little observing lately, due to my observing eye having a cataract, which I hope to have fixed this spring 2018.

     Like most amateurs I had “aperture fever” but am getting over it.  For over 60 years I wanted a 12-in. telescope, but feel now that it would be too heavy to lug around as long as I live here, where light pollution is increasing.  A good small telescope on a steady mount can give many wonderful evenings.  Just to get a rare clear night is a blessing.  My 4¼-in. at 38x can see mag. 12 stars and even my short 2.4-in. at 25x can see mag. 11.3 (and once reached mag. 13.0 at 86x).  And there are about 1,000 galaxies in range of my 8-in.

     Big automated observatories are putting visual observers “out of business”, yet I feel there are small opportunities for us to find a new nova or maybe even a comet.  Don’t give up.  It is fun trying.       

Gus Johnson

3-7-2018 

Outdoor Lighting Fixtures From Days Past, and Before the Advent of Incredibly Bright and Health Damaging LED Blue Lighting.

December 2, 2019

At one time, most all commercial outdoor lighting was fully shielded and pleasant to the eye, without glare and without creating excessive light pollution.  

Antique lighting fixtures, as pictured below: 

These old and fully shielded lights represented a time when people could still see the night sky.  This was before the era of incredibly bright LED’s, which emit health damaging blue light.  

Light pollution and especially “Blue Rich lighting” not only affects human health, but the entire ecosystem.  

A few of the following photos were made this morning (December 2, 2019) while driving to a local bagel shop.  Some of the lights are within a mile of my house and the others, fairly close.   

I’ve always thought of these 1920-50’s lights as objects of beauty.  

Many old and vacant stores or businesses have had their outdoor lights removed by those appreciating antique lighting fixtures.  

Supplemental photos:

On Sunday afternoon (December 8th) Debbie and I noticed quite a few more of the lighting fixtures of days past in uptown Shelby.    

Beginning with Quilting Fabrics and Notions (Lee Furniture and Sewing Center) and also on the side wall of “Pleasant City Wood Fired Grille” 

Roger Ivester

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